Russian President Vladimir Putin has thanked President Xi Jinping for China’s “balanced position” on Ukraine, in their first face-to-face talks since Russia invaded the country, media reports said.
The Russian leader met his counterpart at a summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where he condemned “attempts to create a unipolar world”, the BBC reported.
Xi said China was willing to work together with Russia as “great powers”, it said.
China hasn’t endorsed Russia’s invasion but has steadily grown trade and other ties with Moscow since it was launched.
The two leaders’ meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit comes at a crucial point in the Ukraine war, where Russian troops have lost ground in parts of the country in recent days.
During their last meeting in February – when Putin travelled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics at Xi’s invitation – the two sought to demonstrate their close ties, famously declaring they shared a friendship with “no limits”.
Days later, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting international condemnation and sanctions against Moscow, putting the China-Russia relationship under an intense spotlight.
Beijing has since urged an end to hostilities and stressed the importance of sovereignty. But it has also consistently refused to call the war an invasion by Russia, whose leaders refer to it as a “special military operation”.
In recent weeks China has sent troops to take part in joint military exercises with Russia, and sent senior officials to meet Russian counterparts to reaffirm their close ties. It has also come to Russia’s economic aid at a time of punitive sanctions inflicted by the West, BBC reported.
This has been a win-win for both countries. With Europe reducing its dependency on Russian oil and gas, China has increased its purchases of the energy products, which it is reportedly getting at discounted rates.